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Air Force picks Anduril, General Atomics for next round of CCA work

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SecAF Kendall speaks at SLOC

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall speaks with students and guests during the Senior Leader Orientation Course at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Nov. 13, 2023. (US Air photo Strength by Eric Dietrich)

UPDATED 04/24/24 at 5:48 p.m. ET with details from an Air Force press release and comments from CCA suppliers.

WASHINGTON — Defense startup Anduril and drone maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) have been chosen by the Air Force to build and test drone prototypes for the next phase of the service. Collaborative fighter jets program, the Air Force announced this evening.

The Air Force’s decision reduces a field of five competitors to two. As a result, three other suppliers – Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman – were eliminated from the race.

“Companies not selected to build these production-representative CCA vehicles and execute the flight test program will continue to be part of the broader pool of industry partner suppliers, consisting of more than 20 companies, competing for the future efforts, including future production contracts. » said the Air Force.

Like breaking the defense first reported, the five contractors had already been selected by the Air Force for the first phase of the program, which focused largely on design work. Today’s selection narrows down the vendors who will take their designs from the drawing board to the real world. As Andrew Hunter, Air Force acquisition chief, recently told lawmakers at a congressional hearing, the next phase of the CCA will see these suppliers “complete detailed designs, build prototypes and test articles of representative tests of production”.

Unveiled by the service as a major multibillion-dollar program in the FY 2024 budget, the CCA effort aims to initially deploy up to 1,000 drones. According to the service’s press release issued today, officials plan to make a “competitive production decision” by FY26 for the first round of CCA work and to “establish a fully operational capability before the end of the decade.

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At the Air & Space Forces Association Warfare Symposium in February, Kendall revealed that the CCA competition underway right now would be the first “add” in the program, followed by a second in the FY25 budget. This second increase would allow the vendors eliminated today, as well as the newsanother chance to get a CCA contract. International collaboration could also be in the second tranche, Kendall said, and the service’s statement today indicated that foreign military sales could be considered for the program.

During the February roundtable, Kendall further revealed the “possibility” that several vendors could see their drone offerings go live for the first tranche. He also raised the possibility of having up to three suppliers participate in the earlier testing phase if the industry helped share some of the costs.

With only two suppliers retained today, it’s unclear whether this idea has come to fruition. When asked recently if the industry was confident of footing part of the bill, Hunter told reporters that “cost sharing is not at the heart of our approach to CCA.”

The service’s press release today states that the selection decision “does not exclude any of the suppliers from competing for the future Increment 1 production contract” – which likely suggests that the companies would have to spend internal funds to advance their designs and compete for possible production. agreement.

What the companies have proposed and what comes next

When it comes to specific designs, GA-ASI has declared that the company’s Gambit family of drones would be its entry, while The acquisition of Anduril Last year, autonomous aircraft provider Blue Force positioned the Fury drone as Anduril’s offering. In footage today touting the company’s victory, Anduril showed off the Fury drone, appearing to confirm that the drone was the company’s offering.

“There is no time to waste by pretending that nothing has happened. With the CCA program, Secretary Kendall and the Air Force have taken a rapid, forward-looking approach to implementing high-speed, large-scale autonomous systems,” said Brian Schimpf, CEO and co-founder of Anduril, in a press release. “We are honored to have been selected for this unprecedented opportunity, which demonstrates a demand for continued expansion of the defense industrial base. Anduril is proud to pave the way for other non-traditional defense companies to compete and deliver large-scale programs.

“Throughout our 30-year history, GA-ASI has been at the forefront of rapidly evolving unmanned aircraft systems that support our warfighters,” said GA-ASI President David Alexander , in a press release. “The USAF is moving forward with GA-ASI through our focused commitment to unmanned air-to-air combat operations and our unmatched UAS experience, ensuring production of the CCA aircraft on a large scale to provide an affordable combat mass to the warfighter.”

Boeing said in a statement today that the aerospace giant offered a “proprietary solution tailored to the unique requirements of the U.S. Air Force’s first phase of CCA” and did not demonstrate the MQ-25 Stingray or the MQ-28 Ghost Bat.

“While we are disappointed not to advance this phase of the Air Force’s CCA program, we are not discouraged in our commitment to delivering next-generation autonomous combat aircraft to U.S. and global military customers. Work continues on our robust and growing autonomous family, including the MQ-25 Stingray and its future derivatives, the MQ-28 Ghost Bat, as well as a number of proprietary programs that we cannot disclose,” Boeing said .

Lockheed and Northrop also did not confirm which candidates they had proposed.

In a statement, Lockheed said the company “remains committed to advancing the state of the art in autonomous systems for air and ground missions.” Our work to develop and integrate open guidance architectures, ground control systems like the Multi-Domain Combat System™, human factors interfaces and mission systems continues. For some time, we have been working to bring to life the transformative power of autonomous and AI/ML-enabled operations in manned and unmanned DoD systems, with a particular focus on CCA integration with the F-35 and F-22. These commitments and work continue.

A Northrop representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A second parallel effort under the CCA also involves autonomous software for drones, although it is unclear which companies are involved. Hunter said last year the service already had 20 to 30 vendors working on this element of the CCA work, and most recently said in February that the autonomy component would continue regardless of progress on the hardware side.

News Source : breakingdefense.com
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Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe.Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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